Looking for a resolution? How about reading all eleven of the Dorothy L. Sayers mysteries starring Lord Peter Wimsey, plus the three marvelous post-Sayers Wimsey additions written by Jill Paton Walsh? I can think of no better way to start the new year than to reach back to old times and rediscover the joys of left behind but always beloved heroes. Literary heroes, that is. The kind of hero that never lets you down, that keeps on keeping on with intelligence, charm, courage, honor, and relentless determination. I cannot resolve to be more intelligent or charming or determined (I know my limits) - but I can easily resolve to read about someone who has all those kick-ass traits and, by the by, has an even more fabulous wife, the wry, witty, patient, and exceedingly tough Harriet Vane, writer of detective fiction, accused murderess, and all-around swell mother.
The Attenbury Emeralds, the latest Walsh/pseudo Sayers take on Lord Peter out this month from Minotaur Press, revisits Wimsey's very first case, which happened way back in 1921. The family jewels of the Attenburys, old English nobility, include a large emerald that once belonged to an even older Indian family who now want it back. Wimsey foils a robbery but fast-forward to 1951, and the Attenbury jewels are causing trouble again - and raising the question of whether Wimsey actually fumbled his first case of sleuthing, so long ago.
Sayers herself never wrote a novel about Wimsey's first case but alluded to the missing and found Attenbury emeralds many times as the circumstances that gave rise to Lord Peter becoming an amateur but wholly effective sleuth. Walsh gives Sayers fans satisfaction in exploring the circumstances of the case fully, and she also rounds out the character of Wimsey, making him both more human and more admirable. Shell-shocked and traumatized by his World War I experiences, Wimsey in 1921 used the case of the missing emeralds as a therapy for recovery. Now in 1951, as England recovers from a second World War and reverberates with social and political change, Wimsey will once again use the case of the Attenbury emeralds as therapy, a therapy of accepting change, taking responsibility, and moving forward. Big changes await our Lord Wimsey but by the end of the novel, there are no doubts as to his capacity to handle whatever comes his way.
The Attenbury Emeralds gives Sayers fans everything we've missed about our Lord Peter, including steady wife Harriet, loyal friend and valet Bunter, stuck-up brother Gerald, stalwart Chief Inspector Charles Parker, man-about-town Freddy Arbuthnot, and, of course, Wimsey's magnificent old Daimler. Walsh will certainly bring new fans into the Lord Peter fold by using the tried and true Sayers traits of sly humor, richly-realized background, and fully engaging and believable characters to write a mystery that is beguiling, charming, and runs deep with questions of duty, responsibility, and self-determination. Walsh's writing meets the standards of excellence set by Sayers, using the mystery novel as a means to demonstrate that traits of endurance, honestly, and loyalty are always appealing. Wit matched with intelligence marks the soul not only of a good sleuth, but also of the very best mysteries. Watched over by the ghost of Dorothy L. Sayers, The Attenbury Emeralds has soul.